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Joaquim Rodriguez rode onto the podium with a strong climb
Spaniard drops Contador and Kreuziger on Semnoz
The Katusha rider looked strong on the final climb to Semnoz and was one of the key factors in making the decisive splits. Rodríguez attacked on a number of occasions to rid the front group of Alberto Contador and his right-hand man Roman Kreuziger. A last minute jump off the front from eventual stage winner Nairo Quintana was too much for the Spaniard to follow. He bided his time before distancing Chris Froome to secure his podium place.
"To get rid of Froome was almost impossible because he is really strong," said Rodríguez. "I was feeling really good so I tried to test him and in the end I could still see that he didn't have any help.
"I knew what my objective was. I found that I was climbing better every day and I had a little bit more momentum. It was the final day for us all to do something and I wanted to try and fight for the stage. It was a hard day, but I fought and I finished second to a champion. I gave it everything."
More importantly for Rodríguez, he managed to put more than two minutes into Contador and Kreuziger [much more than the 22 seconds he needed] at the finish. It leaves him with a sizable buffer to Contador, who now sits in fourth. The result makes Rodríguez one of the few to make the podium in all three of the Grand Tours.
"Tomorrow will be a huge day for me, for my family," the Katusha rider said at the finish of stage 20. "I don't know if I've seen them this happy about a podium, tomorrow will be great. My wife and my children will be in Paris; they have supported me and this is important for them. They've missed me at home and I want to give them this. The Tour isn't like anything else, it's enormous and to finish on the podium is great."
A turn in fortunes
Rodríguez's Tour de France didn't get off the ground until the final week, and he suffered from a lack of form early on. He looked well below par as the race wound its way through the Pyrenees and was unable to live up to his usual attacking style that we've seen so frequently in recent years. While he finally found his feet in the mountains, with impressive results, it was his third place in the second individual time trial that really put him in contention for the podium. The mountainous terrain helped the Spaniard finished a tiny 10 seconds behind the stage winner Froome, something that surprised even himself.
The 34-year-old believes that lady luck has been on his side for the last few days. "I struggled in the first week, Mollema is ill this week. Sometimes you need luck," says Rodríguez. "Because you can crash or like when I was the leader in the 2011 Giro and I was ill and I ended up finishing outside of the podium."
While he's yet to place his feet onto the top step of the podium ‘Purito' has become a regular on the rostrum. The 2013 Tour is his third consecutive top-three spot, since finishing second at last year's Giro d'Italia and third in the Vuelta a Espana. He will be heading to the Vuelta a España later this season to try and finish off his collection of podium positions.